Resources for Before and After Your Visit

Materials to Help You Prepare for Your Visit to the Yiddish Book Center

We look forward to welcoming you and your students to the Yiddish Book Center. Here are some resources to help contextualize the content and themes you’ll encounter during your field trip.

  • First, we encourage you to talk with your students about definitions of some terms you’ll hear during your visit:

Jew: a member of the people whose traditional religion is Judaism and who trace their origins back through the ancient Hebrew people of Israel to Abraham. Today, many people who do not practice traditional religious Judaism still consider themselves Jewish and connect to their heritage through things like languages, literature, and celebrations. This is sometimes referred to as “cultural Judaism.”

Ashkenazi Jews: a Jewish diaspora population that became distinct as a community more than a thousand years ago. They settled and established communities in Central and Eastern Europe.

Judaism: the religion of the Jewish people, based on belief in one God. The primary text is the Torah (also known as the Five Books of Moses or the Pentateuch), which is part of the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible (known in Christianity as the Old Testament).

Yiddish: a Germanic language spoken by Ashkenazi Jews, originally in Central Europe, later mostly in Eastern Europe, and eventually all over the world by the descendants of these Jews. Yiddish contains elements from Hebrew, Aramaic, and Slavic and Romance languages and is written in the Hebrew alphabet.

You can learn more about the terms “Jew” and “Judaism” in these articles in the Jewish Encyclopedia and on the Jewish Online Museum website. For more about the Yiddish language and its history, visit this YIVO Encyclopedia article.

  • Next, watch our orientation film, Bridge of Books, with your students. The film includes some concepts and phrases that may be new to students and could lead to fruitful discussions, such as:
    • What does “portable homeland” mean?
    • What’s a penny postcard?
    • What does Aaron Lansky mean when he says that we’re ready to “dredge the harbor”?
       
  • After watching the film, you may want to explore Ashkenazi Jewish life and history more deeply. These resources would be particularly helpful for classes focusing on Jewish heritage and cultural preservation or pre- and post-Holocaust Jewish life:
  • For classes focusing on immigration, here are some helpful resources:
  • If your group is eating lunch here at the Yiddish Book Center, some students may be curious about why we asked that they not bring pork or shellfish. Here’s an introduction to kashrusJewish dietary laws—and to which animals are kosher. We can also talk about Jewish dietary traditions during the visit.

 

Materials for After Your Visit to the Yiddish Book Center

While we covered a lot of ground together during your visit, it was only an introduction to the world of Eastern European Jewry and Yiddish. Here are some resources to help you continue the conversation in your classroom: